Texting ban while driving one step closer to law

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Motorists in Kentucky would face fines if
caught texting while driving under legislation that lawmakers are
heralding as a lifesaving measure.

The legislation cleared its final hurdle Thursday when the House
passed it by a vote of 86-10. It now goes to Gov. Steve Beshear who
has already said he intends to sign it into law.

"It's going to save lives - not only people who are texting but
innocent people who are driving around them," said state Sen.
Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, sponsor of the measure.

The legislation sets fines of $25 for the first offense and $50
for a second offense, plus court costs. It also bars new drivers
from using cell phones behind the wheel for the first six months
after receiving a driver's permit.

"I think that's going to train new generations of inexperienced
drivers with better driving habits," Harper Angel said.
"Hopefully they'll keep that good habit and make their car a
no-phone zone entirely."

The proposed texting ban has been among the most talked about
measures being considered by Kentucky lawmakers this year. Beshear
is a leading proponent, having called for the legislature to take
action on such a measure in his State of the Commonwealth address
in January.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already prohibit
drivers from texting behind the wheel, according to the Governors
Highway Safety Association. Another 10 states restrict texting by
novice drivers.

The U.S. Transportation Department in February instituted a rule
prohibiting truck and bus drivers from sending text messages on
hand-held devices while operating commercial vehicles. The
prohibition carries potential civil or criminal penalties of up to
$2,750.

The Kentucky measure calls for a phasing in of penalties. Only
courtesy warnings will be issued until Jan. 1.

It took some late-session maneuvering by lawmakers to get the
measure through the General Assembly. Senators attached the texting
ban as an amendment to a House bill filed by state Rep. Tom Riner,
D-Louisville. Riner's bill requires personal service agencies to
establish policies under which employees can accept gifts,
gratuities or loans from clients.

Riner favored adding the texting ban to his bill.

Beshear released a statement late Thursday praising its passage.

"The texting bill is a commonsense bill to protect all Kentucky
drivers," he said.

Beshear had issued an executive order earlier this year banning
state employees from texting while driving state vehicles. He
called the legislative ban "an important safety measure for every
person who travels our roads."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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